The Pleasant Valley volleyball team knew what was on the line Tuesday night.
Last season the Lady Bears fell to the Lehighton Indians in the Mountain Valley Conference championship game. This year, if they wanted to get back to the championship and win their first title since 2006, the Bears would have to go through the Indians once again.
Knowing that, Pleasant Valley came out strong and quickly showed Lehighton how its semi-final match-up was going to go. The Bears took the first game in dominating fashion, came from behind to win game two and then used a big run to take game three. Pleasant Valley swept Lehighton 25-7, 25-23, 25-10 and in the process ended the Indians' two-year run as MVC champs.
"It was kind of nerve racking at first," said Pleasant Valley head coach John Gesiskie. "Last year we lost to Lehighton in the finals because of our nerves and the girls knew it. They wanted to make sure that didn't happen again this year.
"We thought the first match-up (between Pocono Mt. East and East Stroudsburg North) would have been done in three games, but it ended up going five. That ramped up the intensity on the floor. So the girls went out and did some breathing exercises."
Kayla Dorney, who was the conference's MVP the last two years, played like a most valuable player. The senior reeled off nine straight service points in the opening match to blow the game open. She then went on another seven-point run in game three and gave her Bears a lead they would never relinquish.
"I think we came out very strong tonight," said Dorney, who finished an amazing 27-for-27 from the service line. "We accomplished a lot of things tonight that we have been practicing on and I think that led us to victory.
"I know a lot of the seniors, including myself, are ready to take back the title. We have waited for years, if not longer, to take it back. I think we are ready and we are going to come out strong Thursday."
Dorney, along with teammate Breanna Joseph, had two early kills to spark a 5-0 run in the opening game. Dorney then stepped to the line with the Bears up 8-3 and recorded nine straight points. Her sister, Mackenzie, later showed off her serving skills with an ace to end the game.
Lehighton bounced back in game two and took an early 8-2 lead thanks to four service points from Lauren Poremba. However, Pleasant Valley battled back and managed to tie the game at ten. The Indians would pull ahead by four thanks to back-to-back aces from Debra Lobein (17-13), but watched as the Bears came back to tie the score at 21 and 23. The Bears then picked up two points, the last one on a Lehighton miscue, and escaped with the victory.
"After that second game, that was it," said Gesiskie. "The girls knew that they had Lehighton on the ropes and they were ready to go.
"The first game our intensity carried us. We then seemed to question ourselves in the second one, but then we pulled it out and came from behind. After that, the girls said that's it. We are finishing it right now."
Game three was close at the beginning, but the Bears managed to pull away thanks to Dorney's serving. Dorney drilled an ace through the middle of the Indians' defense and forced Lehighton head coach Rachel Quinn to call a timeout.
The break didn't slow down Dorney, as she continued to pick up six more service points before Quinn called another timeout.
Teammate Brittni Cumberland took it from there. Cumberland ripped off six straight service points to end the night and sent Pleasant Valley back to the MVC championship.
Pleasant Valley won five straight MVC crowns from 2002 to 2006. The Bears will be looking to get back to the top of the MVC mountain on Thursday, when they will play East Stroudsburg North at East Stroudsburg South.
"I think the girls are ready for it," said Gesiskie. "It's funny how they are looking at it. We won our first MVC in 2002 when my one daughter was a senior and the other one was young. They look at that and want to try to build upon that.
"Kayla is here and she wants to win one on her way out. Her sister (Mackenzie) also wants to win it and make it a tradition like we did back then. But they are ready. They want to play tonight. That's how intense they are."